Demetrius and the Gladiators
|Demetrius and the Gladiators|
Original film poster
|Directed by||Delmer Daves|
|Produced by||Frank Ross|
|Written by||Philip Dunne|
Lloyd C. Douglas
|Music by||Franz Waxman|
|Cinematography||Milton R. Krasner|
|Edited by||Robert Fritch|
|Distributed by||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation|
Demetrius and the Gladiators is a 1954 Biblical drama film and a sequel to The Robe. The picture was made by 20th Century Fox, directed by Delmer Daves and produced by Frank Ross. The screenplay was written by Philip Dunne based on characters created by Lloyd C. Douglas in The Robe.
The movie presents Victor Mature as Demetrius, a Christian slave made to fight in the Roman arena as a gladiator, and Susan Hayward as Messalina, a reprobate who is the wife of Claudius, the uncle of the depraved emperor Caligula. The cast also features Ernest Borgnine, William Marshall, Michael Rennie, Jay Robinson as Caligula, Debra Paget, Anne Bancroft in one of her earlier roles, and Julie Newmar as a briefly seen dancing entertainer. The film is in Technicolor and CinemaScope.
The film begins with a clip from the previous film, showing its central characters Marcellus and Diana going to be martyred for their Christian beliefs on the order of Emperor Caligula. Before being executed, Diana hands the Robe of Christ to Marcellus' servant Marcipor (David Leonard), telling him that it is "for the Big Fisherman," meaning Peter, who was a fisherman before being called as an apostle.
Peter (Michael Rennie) hands the Robe to Demetrius while at the funeral of Marcellus and Diana before leaving on a journey to live in 'the north'. Caligula (Jay Robinson) becomes interested in the Robe, thinking that it has magic powers and will bring him the 'eternal life' that Jesus had spoken of. He accosts his uncle Claudius (Barry Jones), wanting to know what had happened to it.
Demetrius, looking out for his Lucia (Debra Paget) and the Robe and refusing to reveal its location, is arrested for assaulting a Roman soldier and sentenced to the arena. Demetrius fights and saves his opponent. The tigers are then set on him, but he kills them. Caligula then assigns him to be Messalina's bodyguard. Later, Messalina is accused of wanting Caligula dead and plotting his murder, but manipulates her way out of the situation.
Meanwhile, Lucia disguises herself to gain entrance to the gladiator school to see Demetrius. However, the two are forcibly separated on orders of Messalina (Susan Hayward), Claudius' wife. Lucia is then assaulted by Dardanius (Richard Egan) and the other gladiators, forcibly kissing her and trying to carry her to private chambers. Demetrius in desperation prays for God to save her, and suddenly it appears that Dardanius has broken Lucia's neck. All present are shocked at Lucia's apparent death, especially Demetrius, and he loses all his faith in Jesus Christ as God.
Previously, he had avoided killing anyone in the Emperor's games because of his religion, but all that now changes. His next time in the arena, not only does he fight, but he ferociously kills all the gladiators that took part in the attack on Lucia. The Roman spectators, including the Emperor, are thrilled. Demetrius is freed, and allowed to join the Praetorian Guard. Caligula asks if Demetrius renounces Christ; he does, and once Demetrius does this, Caligula frees him and inducts him into the guard with the rank of Tribune.
As a Roman tribune, Demetrius rejects the teachings of Christ (and of Isis when encountering Messalina praying to her statue), beginning an affair with Messalina. When Peter comes to visit them, he turns him away too. The affair continues for several months. Eventually Caligula finds out about their affair, and sends Demetrius to get the Robe from the Christians.
Demetrius is taken to a small house, where he is surprised to find Lucia, lying on a bed clutching the Robe. He finds out that she never had died, after all, but that when he prayed for God to save her, her sudden coma had accomplished her rescue. Now, months later, she is still unconscious. Demetrius realizes he has made a mistake, prays to God, and Lucia awakens.
Demetrius takes the Robe to the Emperor, who takes it below to a prisoner. He has the prisoner killed and tries to resurrect him using the Robe. Furious that he cannot, Caligula accuses Demetrius of having brought him a fake, declaring both the Robe and Christ are frauds. Demetrius is horrified to learn that the Emperor had a prisoner killed in order attempt to use the power of the Robe to bring him back to life, and steps toward Caligula to attack him. He is stopped by the guards and on Caligula's orders is sent back to the arena.
When the Emperor tries to have Demetrius executed, the Praetorian Guard (already angry at Caligula over worse pay and conditions) finally turns against Caligula and kills first Macro (Karl 'Killer' Davis), the prefect of the Praetorian Guard, and then Caligula himself. Claudius is installed as Emperor by the Praetorian Guard almost immediately after Caligula is killed.
Soon after his installation, Emperor Claudius says that he is neither a god, nor likely to become one anytime soon. Claudius says that he maintained the appearance of being weak to survive Caligula's rule, and that he would now take on the role of Emperor to the best of his ability. He gives Demetrius his final orders as a Tribune: to go to Peter and the other Christians, and tell them that as long as they do not act against the Empire they have nothing to fear from Claudius. Messalina re-vows her constancy to her husband. Demetrius and Glycon (William Marshall) (another virtuous gladiator) take the Robe to Peter, and the trio leaves the Imperial Palace together.
- Victor Mature – Demetrius
- Susan Hayward – Messalina
- Michael Rennie – Peter
- Debra Paget – Lucia
- Jay Robinson – Caligula
- William Marshall – Glycon
- Ernest Borgnine – Strabo
- Barry Jones – Claudius
- Anne Bancroft – Paula
- Richard Egan – Dardanius
- Charles Evans – Cassius Chaerea
- Everett Glass – Kaeso
- Fred Graham – Decurion
- Selmer Jackson – Senator
- Roy Jenson –Gladiator
- Dayton Lummis – Magistrate
- Paul Stader – Gladiator
- George Eldredge – Chamberlain
- Woody Strode – Gladiator
- Jeff York – Albus
- Jean Simmons – in clip from The Robe
- Richard Burton – in clip from The Robe
- Cameron Mitchell as voice of Jesus – in clip from The Robe
- Carmen De Lavallade – Slave Girl
- Julie Newmar – Primary Specialty Dancer
- Paul Newlan – Potter
Demetrius and the Gladiators was a massive commercial success. In its initial release, the film earned $4.25 million in US theatrical rentals, against a budget of less than $2 million. Overall, it grossed $26 million in North America, making it the 4th highest-grossing film of 1954.
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote that "we've got to hand it to Producer Frank Ross and Philip Dunne, the writer who put this one together out of whole cloth instead of 'The Robe' ... they have millinered this saga along straight Cecil B. Devotional lines, which means stitching on equal cuttings of spectacle, action, sex and reverence." Variety called the film "a worthy successor" to The Robe, "beautifully fashioned with all the basics of good drama and action that can play, and quite often do, against any setting, period or modern." Edwin Schallert of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "As long as Mature is merely bluffing at being a gladiator, and trying at the same time to remain true to the principles of Christianity, the drama of the picture limps along ... Once Mature suddenly goes on a rampage as a fighter in the arena, 'Demetrius' takes on new life. It holds onto that animation most creditably even when its central character reforms." Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post stated, "Because there is less of the religious aspect of its Lloyd C. Douglas predecessor, and much more of the man-versus-lions-versus-men-versus-women-versus-vino of the early Cecil B. DeMille school herein, I suspect that, moviewise at least, 'Demetrius and the Gladiators' is a more enjoyable, less stuffy entertainment." Harrison's Reports wrote, "Excellent! As a general rule, it is too much to hope that a sequel to an outstanding picture will be as good as the original, but 'Demetrius and the Gladiators,' which is a CinemaScope sequel to 'The Robe,' is one of the rare exceptions to the rule, for it not only matches the spectacular production quality of the original but also surpasses it in entertainment appeal." The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "This sequel to The Robe seems much less inhibited by religious awe than its predecessor. Its spectacle is more lusty; its vulgarity unabashed. Twice it turns back reverently to The Robe (in flashback) as to a chastening altar, but happily soon regains its own noisy bounce in describing suggestive doings in dirty ancient Rome."
- "Demetrius and the Gladiators - History". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
- Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p249
- Box Office Information for Demetrius and the Gladiators. The Numbers. Retrieved April 15, 2013
- HUGHES IS TAGGED WITH A NEW SUIT: R.K.O. Stockholder Demands $1,000,000 Payment and an Accounting on Sale Deal By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 07 Apr 1953: 34
- RANDOM OBSERVATIONS ON PICTURES AND PEOPLE By HOWARD THOMPSON. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 20 Sep 1953: X5.
- Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p225
- 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954', Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955
- Crowther, Bosley (June 19, 1954). "The Screen: Demetrius Returns". The New York Times. 9.
- "Film Reviews: Demetrius and the Gladiators". Variety. June 2, 1954. 6.
- Schallert, Edwin (June 17, 1954). "'Demetrius' Gains Good Final Summit". Los Angeles Times. Part III, p. 8.
- Coe, Richard L. (July 10, 1954). "Sequel to 'Robe' Opens Your Eyes". The Washington Post. 6.
- "'Demetrius and the Gladiators' with Victor Mature and Susan Hayward". Harrison's Reports. June 5, 1954. 90.
- "Land of the Pharoahs". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 22 (262): 163. November 1955.
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